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Proposed New Nuclear Reactor At Fermi Plant Clears Hurdle

FRENCHTOWN TWP. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found that environmental concerns are not significant enough to halt the construction of a proposed new reactor at the Fermi plant in Monroe County.

Fermi owner Detroit Edison applied to the NRC in 2008 to build one of the newest generation of nuclear reactors at its plant, located next to Lake Erie in Frenchtown Township. The reactor, known as Fermi 3, is the first of its kind currently proposed in the Midwest.

The commission weighed the new reactor's impact on plant and wildlife, geology and waterways and says in a report this week that "there are no environmentally preferable or obviously superior sites."

"This is a major milestone in the licensing process, and the licensing process takes several years, so we're pleased that the NRC staff has completed the final environmental impact statement that supports the issuance of a combined license," said DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo.

NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said although the report's conclusion clears a major hurdle, the design of the reactor, as well as its safety, still must be reviewed.

Cerullo said the utility company was "pleased," but officials have not decided whether DTE ultimately will build the reactor.

"We have an obligation to serve and plan for the future, and these type of base load plants take time to build, so it's something that we're always looking at in the future. But we've not committed to building a new unit at this time," he said.

Fermi has been in operation since Jan. 1988, after a construction period that spanned 20 years. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan; MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan; and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on gas storage and pipelines, unconventional gas production, power and industrial projects, and energy trading.

RELATED: Group Says Nuclear Power Too Risky For Water Supply

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